The most extensive aerial lidar survey of high and extra high voltage overhead power lines covering more than 30,000km has been completed by UK Power Networks.
The electricity distribution network operator contracted UK companies ADAS and Bluesky International to carry out vegetation assessment in the vicinity of the power lines.
Instead of conventional aerial photography, the two companies opted for lidar technology that measures distance by illuminating a target with a laser. The reflected light is subsequently analysed to produce high resolution 3D maps.
Vegetation interfering with power lines is the most significant threat to power supplies, forcing power network operators to carry out regular surveys to assess the risk as well as the vegetation management practices in place.
The two companies, using three fixed-wing aircraft equipped with cutting-edge lidar sensors, were racing against time to complete the survey before autumn leaf fall sets in.
Having started in mid-July, the work was frequently hampered by bad weather or Air Traffic Control restrictions.
The latest project is said to represent a qualitative step forward in power network monitoring. In 2013, the two companies conducted a similar survey using stereo aerial photography, which not only examined the state of the vegetation near the overhead power lines but also determined the number of customers possibly affected by possible tree-related electrical disruption.